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College Hockey:
2002-03 SUNYAC Season Preview

Goalies With A Capital “G”

“I played here in 1993. I don’t think there’s been a time when goaltending is so good.”

That was Cortland coach Tom Cranfield talking about the state of goaltending in the SUNYAC. He is not alone in his opinion.

Fredonia’s coach Jeff Meredith said, “One thing about our league, it’s dominated by goaltending. In the past, great forwards dominated the league. Now, not a lot of forwards that can single-handedly beat teams. Now, every team has a goalie that can beat you on any night.”

And this is after Niklas Sundberg, one of the top goalies ever to play in this league, left Plattsburgh. What that does is turn the spotlight on a plethora of goalies on other teams who were in Sundberg’s large shadow, but who deserved some of the limelight all along.

These include the Oswego tandem of Joe Lofberg and Tyson Gajda, Potsdam’s Ryan Venturelli, Brett Walker on Geneseo, and Will Hamele for Fredonia. And whenever they are not willing to take the headlines, there are plenty of other solid netminders who will, such as John Larnerd on Cortland, Brockport’s Brian Tefft and Steve Tippett, and Steve Thering or Nick Berti for Buffalo State.

Let’s not forget about Plattsburgh itself, which will be hoping that Tony Seariac can replace Sundberg. Those are large … well, huge … skates to fill, but if Seariac can do it, then the forwards in this league are going to be mighty frustrated no matter who they play.

Deceiving Domination

True, Plattsburgh has won the last six conference titles, 16 in all. And, granted, Plattsburgh has done extremely well on the national stage with that automatic bid, winning the national championship in 2001 and making it to the Frozen Four last year before losing in the semifinals.

However, it hasn’t been easy. For the past two years, the Cardinals have been forced to a third and deciding game in the final round, beating Potsdam the first time and then Oswego last year. It was even tougher last year. Geneseo forced a mini-game in the semifinal round, and Plattsburgh didn’t even beat Oswego until that final third game.

Which means the Cardinals are beatable. At least, that is what the other teams are going to believe.

Questions

Like with any new sports season, there are questions. And when following a college sport, there are even more questions as you always have the four-year turnover.

The biggest question of the year is what impact a coaching change will have on Potsdam? With only two coaches in program history until this season, Glenn Thomaris comes in at the last minute to take the job vacated by a departed Ed Seney.

Plattsburgh’s ability to replace Sundberg is the next obvious one.

Then how about these. Will Oswego finally put it all together to take the SUNYAC crown? Were Cortland and Geneseo’s fine seasons a path to better things or a one-hit wonder? Is Buffalo State ready to be a regular playoff contender? Is Fredonia ready to regain some of its former glory or will it continue to drift? Finally, will Brockport win a league game?

We won’t really know until the games are played. One thing is guaranteed, the 2002-3 season promises to be an exciting one that the fans will thoroughly enjoy.

Asked about the start of the season, Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery said, “We’re looking forward to it.”

So is everyone else.

Going Out On A Limb

This is the part that’s sure to have fans of most of the teams laughing at the columnist when the season comes to an end. Well, that’s all part of the hazard pay we get. Click on any team name listed below, in order of predicted finish, for its respective season preview.

Plattsburgh State Cardinals
Coach: Bob Emery
2001-2 Overall Record: 20-9-4, NCAA Semifinals
2001-2 SUNYAC Record: 13-1-0, regular season champion, playoff champion
One-Liner: Until someone actually knocks the Cardinals off their perch, the King of the Hill is picked to repeat.

Potsdam State Bears
Coach: Glenn Thomaris
2001-2 Overall Record: 12-15-0
2001-2 SUNYAC Record: 6-8-0
One-Liner: The Hawthorne Effect will take place with a new coach.

Oswego State Great Lakers
Coach: George Roll
2001-2 Overall Record: 17-9-4
2001-2 SUNYAC Record: 10-3-1
One-Liner: Tired of playing the bridesmaid could very easily motivate them to the top.

"I played here in 1993. I don’t think there’s been a time when goaltending is so good."

— Cortland coach Tom Cranfield

Geneseo State Ice Knights
Coach: Brian Hills
2001-2 Overall Record: 12-15-2
2001-2 SUNYAC Record: 7-5-2
One-Liner: Hills will continue to work his magic and Walker will backstop them to a solid finish.

Cortland State Red Dragons
Coach: Tom Cranfield
2001-2 Overall Record: 14-11-4
2001-2 SUNYAC Record: 7-5-2
One-Liner: The wild card this season might cause havoc with these predictions.

Buffalo State Bengals
Coach: Jim Fowler
2001-2 Overall Record: 11-15-1
2001-2 SUNYAC Record: 5-8-1
One-Liner: No repeat of last year’s slide will mean a repeat playoff appearance.

Fredonia State Blue Devils
Coach: Jeff Meredith
2001-2 Overall Record: 9-12-3
2001-2 SUNYAC Record: 3-9-2
One-Liner: Looking to regain respectability, but that will wait another year.

Brockport State Golden Eagles
Coach: Brian Dickinson
2001-2 Overall Record: 4-19-2
2001-2 SUNYAC Record: 0-12-2
One-Liner: Simply looking for a conference win.


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